• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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But My Dream It Lingered Near

Can you believe I save these things?

Today, in the mail, I received a first novel with a note from the editor, “Hey Betsy — My first acquisition, a real book, at last.” I was so touched by that, remembering so dearly what it meant to acquire that first book and see it through the stages of editing, production, pre-publication jitters, post publication depression. One of the first books I signed up was The Early Arrival of Dreams by Rosemary Mahoney. We met at writing workshop at Johns Hopkins University. She was a teaching fellow, I was a lowly poet.

As with everyone I’ve ever fallen in love with, her writing was the way to my heart. When she went to China the following year, a series of letters she produced were so vivid and alive that I suggested she write a book about her time there. Ballantine offered her a modest advance, and we were off to the races. I can’t remember a more heady time, or a prouder moment than seeing Orville Schell’s full page review of her book in The New York Times. That was hot.

Would love to hear about your first time, loosely interpreted.

11 Responses

  1. Dear betsy I have been following your blog for a few months and think it’s great. I would love to tell you about my first time being published . . . and I will just as soon as it happens

  2. Dear Betsy, My first time is still in the works. Still polishing the gem. I got excited reading your post today. Someday, maybe it’ll be me. Thanks for your awesome post(s)!

  3. If the topic of the day is The Moment When Your Expertise Was Validated then I have to tell about Barbra Streisand’s Cartier clock.

    When Ms. S. was selling off all her Art Deco stuff from one of her California homes in the early ’90s at Christie’s auction house in NYC, the experts in the Jewelry Dept. discovered that her Cartier Mystery Clock (solid jade, in the form of a portico from a shinto shrine) was busted. They brought it to me (I was the lowly Watch and Clock expert). They told me to get it fixed; I told them that their pre-sale auction estimate of $60-80,000 was ridiculously low. “This is a quarter-million dollar clock!” I said (I was also pissed because the Jewelry Dept was always skimming off the Cartier clocks from estates and treating them like sparkly knick-knacks instead of like serious horology; they also got to make a lot of money off of them).

    What followed was a chat between me and the president of Christies about how I could not challenge the Jewelry Dept’s estimates because lowly clock people don’t talk back to European and classy Jewelry experts. I would say it turned into a pissing contest, but I’ve already used a form of the word “piss” (above).

    I defended myself, saying that I just didn’t want Christie’s to look stupid, putting a freaking *Cartier Mystery Clock* on sale as if it were a $60-80,000 tchok-kah.

    So they decided to compromise. They put it in the sales catalogue for $100-125,000 estimate.

    On the day of the Streisand sale, I ran down to the sales room when bidding on that Cartier Mystery Clock started. I stood back stage, my heart pounding: the fact is that I’d never sold a Cartier Mystery Clock; they are exceedingly rare and no one had sold one in, oh, 15 years, and I’d just given that quarter-million dollar estimate from a gut feeling I had when I saw that clock and fell in love. And then I’d blabbed about it all the way to the top of the Christie’s food chain. I’m just a hick from Missoula Montana and everybody else at Christie’s had English accents, for god’s sake.

    The clock sold for $330,000. I got promoted to Faberge expert. (Not right away, but in the end.)

  4. Rosemary Mahoney’s Whoredom in Kimmage is a most wonderful book. She’s an under-recognized writer.

    Not posting about my first fiction publication because I don’t really like rodeos, even though my grandmother met her second husband the cowboy at one (in the movie, he’s played by Fred MacMurray and she’s played by Irene Dunne).

  5. Another thing I like about this blog – finding new books to read. I was engrossed before the excerpt ended.

    My first time is still a wet dream. This post sparked something though. It made me remember why I’m trying to write at all. I’ve been screwed up trying to follow the rules of a canned, formal query when I should have been concentrating on the substance of my writing. Thanks for the light bulb moment.

  6. My firsts? One was a nightmare, and the other is yet just a dream.

  7. My first book (I’m the writer, not the editor) is quite fresh in my mind, since it just came out in January. There are so many steps along the way, and there’s so much uncertainty in publishing, that I didn’t fully exhale until the book was in stores. But there have been lovely moments along the way: my first look at the cover design, my first fan email, the first time I saw the book in a store.

  8. A scrappy young editor acquired my first book.

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